Motorized Doping – Both Sides of the Story

It’s the buzz right now in cycling… did Fabian Cancellara use “motorized doping” to win Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders this year?  Since this is PROBIKEWRENCH.COM… let’s discuss this interesting piece of technological buzz.  First things first…  let’s explain what we mean when we use the term “motorized doping.”

The phrase “motorized doping” refers to the a bike racer’s use of a bicycle with an internal electric-assist motor to gain an advantage over the competition.  There’s a video on YouTube with over 1.5 million views that shows how a motorized system (in this case, the Gruber Assist) works and, in a roundabout way, shows “video proof” of strange hand movements and their accompanied accelerations by Fabian Cancellara during his two Classics’ wins this year.  It doesn’t outright say that Cancellara used the system, but it does an amazing job of creating that assumption.  Here’s the video:

You’ve seen the “evidence,” now take a look at this great read by freelance cycling journalist Jered Gruber in regards to his photo documentation and personal handling of Cancellara’s bike during his reporting following the Spring Classics.  He does a great job explaining what he observed, and also why the mechanical assist system would not technically work in Fabian Cancellara’s race-winning Specialized Roubaix.  Here’s the link to the article:

It’s a pretty convincing read, but the video can be persuasive, as well.  It really depends on who you pull for in this certain situation.  If you’re a Cancellara fan, you have to wish that this had never been brought up and you believe what you’ve seen… including his many amazing time trial performances and winning a TdF stage solo from a 1k attack while in the Maillot Jaune.  If you’re a conspiracy theorist, and you still think there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll, then you may believe the Italian-produced YouTube clip in its entirety.

As of right now, the UCI is not pursuing Cancellara for any charges or accusations related to motorized doping, however… they do see this as a possible form of sporting fraud and are taking measures to address the fact that this technology be found in competition bikes.  Roundtable meetings with all of the major manufacturers representatives are being scheduled, as we speak, to figure out how to check bikes for this and hopefully squash this form of cheating before it becomes rampant.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, due to lack of testing and UCI/USA Cycling rules being checked for in domestic races, “motorized doping” will make its way to the US domestic and amateur scene before long.  People will do whatever they can to sneak in under the radar and get a win.  Mark my words… someone will get caught trying to slip this one by race officials soon.

Author: Josh Boggs

Sales Manager, Trek Store of Greenville - Board Chair, Palmetto Cycling Coalition - Board Member, Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association (PBMA) - Owner, PROBIKEWRENCH, LLC

One thought on “Motorized Doping – Both Sides of the Story”

  1. Before you worry too much about real mechanical doping hitting the pro peloton and/or the US consider the physics behind the situation. Boardman’s claims about a AA battery can not be backed up. The technology exists to make the silent motor that is strong enough, but it would be cost prohibitive.

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